Struggling to Find the Right Words

strugglingtreesc2016jillcbaker

Like so many people, I am stunned by the devolution of our presidential election process and the resulting turn of events. Vowing not to be political on social media, I offer these thoughts as a “humanitarian” perspective because I think there are supporters in all camps  who do not represent the worst of each.


1. It is imperative that we invest in education and professional training because ignorance breeds bigotry and economic instability feeds gullibility. The saddest thing I saw in the pre-election coverage was a young man with a Trump rally cap extolling the virtues of an ethnically and religiously ‘pure’ nation. It was frightening both in present day and historical context. But aside from the disdain for his slurs, I couldn’t help but wonder who poisoned his mind, what system failed him, why there were no positive role models, and what this young man might have become had he chosen tolerance over hate.

2. We should continue to celebrate the arts and sports. I have always felt these are the great unifiers. Music knows no boundaries. Paintings leap from canvasses drawn by many different hands. Dance and drama cross cultures. Words can heal and inspire rather than separate and denigrate. Films and photography tackle subjects we sometimes fail to see. Teams win and lose together. Whenever I watch the Olympics or hear of a cease fire, I wonder why we can’t do this every day… why can’t we put a universal human agenda (peace, food, healthcare, environmental preservation) ahead of our own?

3. Although I realize my thinking may be ideal, there are small, independent actions we can take. We can lead by example – instilling the values of dignity and open-mindedness in our children and workplaces. We can vote with our wallets because the same economic sanctions that discipline nations can quash brands we do not like. Just as a person does not have to donate to the Clinton Foundation, they do not have to attend conferences at Trump hotels, play golf on Trump greens, bet at Trump casinos or buy Ivanka Trump shoes. There is power in cause-based consumerism. We just need to get informed and see where the tentacles reach.

4. If we must accept what exists, we need to hold our representatives accountable, communicate with our leaders, and promote intelligent conversations. Adding to the dialogue in a constructive way, calling out a wrong, voting at a town hall meeting, can help rectify the dysfunction. We should all become more educated about our Constitutional and legal rights. We may need to know them.

5. We can stand in symbolic solidarity with those at risk. It wasn’t that long ago when Christians wore yellow six-pointed stars to protect Jews who were required to do so… when students wore black arm bands to advocate for civil rights or against war crimes … when we stopped buying ivory… when women 0f all ages marched for reproductive freedom … when heterosexual neighbors flew rainbow flags to shield a same-sex family from vandalism. Perhaps it will be the Brexit-inspired safety pin that now signals a safe haven and open mind for those who have chosen to make our country their home.

6. In the height of irony, considering the harsh criticism of media, we should thank Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump for spending mightily in their advertising campaigns. They have contributed substantially to the bottom line of an industry that sorely needs it. Like it or not, investigative reporting does not come cheap. Although certain candidates, I feel, have gotten too much exposure (Trump) vs those who did not get enough (Sanders), thank you, media, for providing a gripping, startling, and sometimes amusing (SNL and the late night comics) past year. I am particularly taken with the passion and eloquence I have heard — Van Jones on CNN; Aaron Sorkin in Variety, not to mention members of the literary community who have voiced heartfelt appeals for equality and democracy as it was intended.

7. To my social media contacts — Thank you for the lively discourse. Unlike many, I have not unfriended or unfollowed anyone because their views differ from mine. True, I gravitate toward like-minded people as most of us do, but we shouldn’t be afraid of ideas. That’s how books get burned and films get banned. Perspective is a wonderful thing. That said, Bernie Sanders’ book, Our Revolution, will be debut November 15th. Perhaps we should read it.

8. As for protests in the street, I haven’t quite made up my mind on that one. I admire the conviction. I deplore the violence. I praise the bravery and united voice – there is power in numbers. Yet I fear the tearing-apart of people. We should remember the concept of “passive resistance” – a principle of peaceful opposition rooted in Gandhi and King. It still has validity today, maybe more than ever.

9. I have to remind myself we should not be surprised that a most qualified candidate didn’t win. I’ve seen this throughout my entire professional career – because he – or more often, she – was too nice, too quiet, too loud, too young, too old, too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too dark, too light… didn’t have a key to the executive washroom, didn’t wear the right clothes, didn’t drive the right car, didn’t love the right person, didn’t go to the right church, didn’t live in the right town, didn’t attend the right school… or didn’t say ‘yes sir’ all the way up the line. There is still much work to be done.

It’s been a struggle getting my head around what just happened… it’s been tough finding the right words. Looking for a positive outcome, I can only say that our crazy, unprecedented election process has given me hope that a woman can win the vote  of a nation to be president… that a senator without an ill-gotten war chest can spark a movement … that someone who knows absolutely nothing about public office will be graced with the knowledge and dignity to uphold it. OK, not so much the last one – but let’s hope that the cry for change is answered in ways that are positive and productive. Wouldn’t it be grand if a backlash of goodness grew from the seeds of hate?

Perhaps it is time to plant a new crop of Flower Children and for the rest of us who once advocated for love and kindness, to dust off our petals. We know how to do this. It’s just unfortunate that we have to do it again. And again.

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Categories: News, Opinion, Political persuasion, Reflection, journalists, media

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